Saturday, July 28, 2007

Thoughts on the tragedy in Phoenix

Two news helicopters collided today while covering a police chase in Phoenix, and all four occupants died in the ensuing plunges into a park. God rest their souls, and thank God no one was killed on the ground. It's an accident which doesn't happen much.

On Tuesday, I climb back into the traffic plane after a few weeks of doing mostly office work and beach drives. When I arrive at the airport, I see the red helicopter of Channel 9 emerging from its hangar, and after its engine sputters to life not unlike Jack Benny's Maxwell, its two-person crew takes off to bring back live images of traffic tie-ups and incidents. They always wave at me, and I wave back. My job is similar, but all I send back is my voice reports to the producer in the studio. Of course, the pilot is flying the Cessna where I tell him to go, communicating with various controllers, looking for air traffic, etc.

Now when there's a major road accident, it's not uncommon to find as many as four helicopters there (Channels 4, 5, and 7 also). The pilots talk to each other and stay out of each other's way as much as possible. Normally, our plane winds up going above them, because while they can hover, we have to circle. It's a delicate dance. Also, our plane sometimes has to dive or peel off suddenly if another aircraft has clearance in a given area. That sure wakes me up!

Last week, there were vehicle chases just after the morning rush hour on consecutive days. As far as I know, no news helicopters followed them (probably because had the vehicles gone into DC, that's restricted airspace). I guess I don't get the point of following car chases; it must have been the O.J. low-speed chase that started things. Don't get me wrong; the four who perished in Phoenix were doing their job. Nonetheless, I wonder whether car chases are really worth the effort for anything beyond "Cops." Ratings, I reckon.

Believe me, I'll be thinking about those reporters and pilots on Tuesday. But it won't keep me grounded.

Your thoughts welcome; I'll especially want to hear from Bigbro and Mom2BJM.


big bro said...

You can check for the local paper write up. They said the choppers were one over the other and that's when they hit each other. It was lucky they crashed in a park and not on a business or residence. It could have been worse.

Puffy said...

What a tragedy! I was stunned to read and hear about the crash. How sad.

C. said...

From what I've read, the pilots were also acting as reporters. A pilot should only be responsible for flying the aircraft. Numerous accident reports have shown that people simply forget to fly the aircraft when over tasked. This is a real tragedy, hopefully they'll come up with ways to prevent it. At least statistically you're safer because you report and the pilot flies the plane. Cessna 172s are extremely reliable.

Mom2BJM said...

Sorry I'm late to the party, I haven't been posting much as I wasn't feeling too well.

This was pretty sad - they are finally opening the park back up, I believe.

The families of the helicopter pilots and passengers (all of them, I think) are giving any donations they receive to the family of a Phx police officer who was killed the same day, while trying to arrest a forgery suspect in a check cashing place.

Cygnus said...

Wow, I didn't know that! What a show of generosity in such tragedy.